Women have always wanted access to blue-collar jobs but have not always been able to get it. As Susan Chira, writing for the New York Times, notes, blue-collar jobs generally pay higher wages and have been a pathway to the middle class. Women have wanted those higher-paying jobs for the same reasons that men want them—they have families to support, often as single parents. Chira reminds us that women only got access to higher-paying jobs after 1964, when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forced open certain industries previously closed to women, including work in factories, shipyards, mines, and construction sites. Unfortunately, the sexual harassment that women encountered when they entered these fields still endures today. In a different article, Chira reports that sexual harassment remains endemic in many blue-collar professions because it was woven into the manufacturing sector as it evolved during the industrial revolution. For example, as women came from farms into the textile mills, “men reserved the highest-status, highest-paying jobs” for themselves. Chira explains that sexual harassment reflects male hostility to women who try to take “men’s jobs” because of this original sense of entitlement. Because society continues to see some jobs as for men only, many blue-collar professions remain male dominated, and studies show that “sexual harassment is more regular and severe in traditionally male occupations.” The sexual harassment that women still endure remains dangerous. For example:
- A woman on a repair crew was deliberately stranded on top of a two-hundred-foot wind turbine by her male coworkers after enduring months of lewd taunts.
- Men dropped tools on female coworkers or deliberately turned on electrical power when women began working on power lines.
- One gold miner, Hanna Hurst, described her harassment at work as rougher than any she endured serving in the military in Iraq.
- Women in construction are blacklisted and become unemployable if they report sexual harassment.